In the unknowable wisdom of Baseball, the Giants were imbued with the power of the A’s and the A’s got to spend the weekend experiencing what it was like for the Astros and Yankees to face them last week. No, the A’s didn’t get to either team’s tough bullpens, but they did manage to get the right hits at the right time and the key outs at the most critical time. If only the Giants could make them all look this easy.
Logan Webb experienced his first real setback in the 2nd inning by giving up the two-run lead Stephen Vogt’s sac fly and Donovan Solano’s RBI single had created in the top half of the inning. The A’s knocked him out in the 5th after Webb had gotten two quick outs, but then given up a single, hit by pitch and a walk. Jandel Gustave, a day after our Kenny Kelly had cursed him, was able to get out of the bases loaded jam by striking out Mark Canha.
Mark Canha was the fulcrum of this series. He was the A’s hottest hitter (11-for-24 with a 1.230 OPS in the six games leading up to Saturday) and after last year’s bat toss foo-foo-roo in which he withdrew his apology and remarked
“People getting offended by bat flips is so silly,” Canha said in the video above. “I’m not sorry. I’m not really sorry. It’s part of our game. Everybody does it. If somebody is going to throw at me because of it, I’ve gotten thrown at in the past this season for bat flipping, I clearly didn’t learn my lesson. If you’re offended by that, I don’t care.”
he was the most aggro part of the genteel rivalry that is the Bay Bridge Series. And then he went ahead and hit two home runs off of the rookie Webb in the first four innings and it would’ve been easy to expect him to continue the heroics just when the Giants could least afford them.
In the 8th inning, with the Giants up by just a run, he wound up facing Tony Watson, the pitcher against whom he flipped his bat after last year’s booming home run at Oracle Park, and flew out. That was his only other plate appearance of the game because the Giants’ bullpen allowed just one hit in the final 4.1 innings of the game.
A stifling bullpen has been part of the A’s formula all season long, with the seventh-best fWAR in baseball. Against the Astros and Yankees, their relief corps allowed just six runs in 26.2 IP with 25 K against 5 BB. This was a series where both teams played at full strength and the Giants came out on top by equaling the A’s.
The lone hit by the bullpen was on a two-out double by Josh Phegley that nearly ended the game on a terrific throw from Kevin Pillar. Will Smith made it look easy up until that point and Phegley was able to smash a ball back up the middle on a fastball that caught too much of the plate, but what we saw today from Smith and the rest of the relief corps was their final form or ideal self.
After Jandel Gustave closed the 5th, he couldn’t find the strike zone in the 6th and that was the lone exception. Otherwise, Coonrod and Moronta were around the plate and in control of their stuff. Tony Watson showed an effective slider and changeup and was able to disrupt timing enough to get the outs he needed.
Evan Logan Webb didn’t look awful. He looked rookie. His fastball was consistenly 94-95, and his changeup and slider, while not terribly effective, didn’t look like complete works in progress, netting him swing-throughs on both throughout the day.
Buster Posey killed a rally in the 1st inning by grounding into his 15th double play of the season. He’d go on to strikeout in his next four plate appearances and strand six runners on base. It’s the second time Buster Posey has struck out four times in a game for his professional career, and the second time in five weeks.
Posey saw 11 pitches from Blake Treinen in the 7th inning and struck out on a cutter that dove away from the zone. The A’s spent all afternoon challenging Posey with hard stuff and then finally tiring him out enough to chase something away.
I don’t know where we go from here. Including that first 4-strikeout game, he’s had just seven extra base hits in his last 114 plate appearances (6.1%). On the season, he’s grounded into a double play 4% of the time and struck out at a rate of 16%. He’s still hitting the ball hard enough (37.4% hard hit rate), relative to the rest of the league (34.4%), but when he’s not doing that, he looks completely overmatched.
And yet he’s a legacy player, so we know the Giants are just going to have to take the lack of hitting when he’s in the lineup. Today, they didn’t have the benefit of his defense — he was the designated hitter — and at no point did he do anything in that single role to help out the team.
His down day was in stark contrast to standout lines from Donovan Solano (4-for-4 with an RBI and a walk) and Evan Longoria (2-for-4 with a home run and 3 RBIs). Solano looks locked in at the plate and looks incredibly comfortable on defense.
Donovan Solano made this look much easier than it is (he's also batting .345): pic.twitter.com/oz6jMEIGuz— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) August 25, 2019
Longoria ended the day with more home runs and RBIs than he had last season, and his 17th home run of the season wound up being the 1,000th RBI of his career. He also played expert defense at third base.
But it wasn’t just the new guys who made an impact. Brandon Crawford added a hit and would later match Donovan Solano with a great play of his own:
Crawford also started the rally that gave the Giants the lead. The A’s couldn’t keep the ball in their glove for most of the day, and an error by Gold Glover Matt Olson helped Crawford reach. Solano’s seven-pitch at bat led to a walk and put runners at first and second. Mike Yastrzemski was hit by a pitch which loaded the bases. Buster Posey struck out, but then, instead of like what has happened in so many of the games Bruce Bochy has managed, Evan Longoria didn’t hit into a double play. He hit the game-winning two-run single.
That’s now 4,000 games managed by Bruce Bochy, and after a series sweep and securing of the Bay Bridge Trophy, he now has 1,991 career victories to his name. This one showed that his ragtag team could stand toe to toe with one of the best teams in baseball. Maybe there’s not wisdom in Baseball, just a reward for never giving up when the odds are clearly against you.